We discovered this summer a new (for us) and delightful way to enjoy an overnight in Provincetown without getting in the car and suffering through the five-to-seven-hour nightmare that is Cape Cod traffic in summer. Instead of cursing our way through the drive from Boston to P-Town, the fingertip of the hand of the arm that is the Cape map configuration, we hopped onto a Boston fast ferry and cruised from Long Wharf next to the Aquarium, to this funky town in 90 minutes, hassle free.
The ferry docks right in the center of town, and you can walk to Commercial Street, the main drag (so to speak, and a great venue to see the drag queens), in a minute. In another minute and a half we had walked the three blocks up the hill to Salt House Inn, a modernized and renovated 19th Century building that was the Dexter Inn until this year a talented couple of New Yorkers brought it beautifully up to date but not too much.
Interior architect Kevin O’Shea and British born co-owner David Bowd had spent their summers in Provincetown and knew exactly what overnight guests wanted in a bed and breakfast, and they put a fresh approach to the 15 guest rooms and dining room, all of which are now a clean, white, spare contemporary version of a Cape Cod beach cottage. While the roomy bathrooms are totally updated, with glass enclosed walk-in rain showers and spa amenities, the bedrooms are all white wood, each with a ‘wall of curiosities” above the beds, which feature a collection of old tools and signs and knickknacks that take one back to colonial New England days. Even the lampshades are clean and spare, with just the metal bones of the shades surrounding the light bulbs, but no fussy shades themselves.
We stayed in the loft, which is an enormous bedroom on the second floor with a claw foot bathtub in the room, as well as a TV with hundreds of channels, wiFi, and a sitting corner with desk. With the upstairs sun deck outside and the little garden patio down below, Salt House Inn provided a calm oasis away from the frenetic activity of the art galleries and iconic tourist shops of downtown Provincetown.
We spent the rest of our day in Provincetown visiting the many art galleries and could have spent hours at Norma Glamp’s Rubber Stamps at 212 Commercial Street, a greeting card shop with selections so unique and humorous that customers regularly break into uncontrolled laughter as they choose enough cards for the whole year of birthdays and weddings and special events. The owner seemed to enjoy the comedy-club mood that permeates his shop.
We had dinner with Provincetown friends at their favorite restaurant, Jimmy’s Hideaway, and slept like babies in our enormous all white-on-white bed at the inn.
O’Shea is also the chef for the inn’s buffet breakfast, baking all the pastries from scratch each morning. You can sit at a communal table or off by yourself in a cozy nook of the room, or on the outside patio.
The name of the inn comes from two sources: the property was originally comprised of cottges for salt mine workers, and Bowd, who has been in the hotel business for 30 years, is from the English village of Salt. The two don’t believe in strict hotel rules such as check-in times; guests can check in whenever they please, and whenever the rooms are ready.
We enjoyed the leisurely breakfast in the morning and chatted with some of the other guests before walking to the 11 a.m. ferry, cruising back around the Boston Harbor Islands, and stepping off the dock at 12:30, primed and ready for the rest of the day in downtown Boston. There are earlier ferries for someone who wants to head straight to work from a weekend in P-Town.
Rates at the inn, www.salthouseinn.com, are $150 to $395, depending on the room and the season, and the inn will remain open this year on November 4, “to make sure,” O’Shea said, “that our guests don’t miss the Halloween fun in this town.”